The NFL is How we Are Wired


As a former NFL defensive end I get excited this time of year as the very best football teams in the world compete for the opportunity to play in the Superbowl and be crowned Champions. I am admittedly biased towards the superiority of professional football as the best spectator sport on the planet but I have a lot of company too! Allow me to prove my bias and explain why football is such an integral part of our American culture.

Football is a TEAM game – and life is too. Don’t think so? Next time you are sick, try treating yourself. The next time your car breaks down, try fixing it yourself. Get my point. Our species is one that was genetically designed to live and thrive in groups of 25-75. With the inclusion of looser connected ties on the periphery that number might expand to 150. A group of this size allowed for necessary social bonds and a safer existence offering protection against predators.

The modern world has altered this number and allowed for greater variety yet we still do relay on a network of others to live. Think about it. You’ve got your immediate family then friends, cohorts, neighbors. Add in your mechanic, dry cleaner, grocer, teachers, trainers etc and it adds up to around 50 with an expanded scope of lesser contact of around 150.

These numbers got me thinking about the last team that I played with, the Los Angeles Raiders (you forgot they used to play in LA didn’t you!). At that time the league allowed 48 players on the roster. Yet the players alone do not make a football team as they need an owner, coaches, trainers, video crew, ball boys, equipment staff and doctors and before you know it you have a tribe of about 75. Factor in the marketing department, public relations and tickets sales staff and it works out to about 150.

I’ve drawn a connection between how our primal ancestors and professional football players work and thrive, and I believe it means that we need each other to realize out personal best. We need friends. We need family. We need each other.

I hope you enjoy the pending NFL playoffs and Superbowl and wherever it is that you watch the game – remember that we – just like the athletes you are watching on TV – need one another. So tell them that you care and confirm it with a hug a kiss or a handshake. The most important thing is to let them know that they are an important part of  your tribe and your life and that you care. PK

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